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Published June 14, 2019. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
Learn how to make this large round classic French boule recipe using a poolish to leaven the bread for a delicious dark brown crust.
So, I’ve made a sourdough starter (Levain), I’ve used in a Graham Flour recipe, I’ve used a biga as a preferment and now I’m going to make a boule recipe using a poolish. A lot of bread making the past few weeks, but if you’ve ever been interested in baking bread then all of these recipes need to be at the top of your list.
For some reason in the states, you buy a machine and boom out comes a loaf of bread 3 hours later. I’m here to tell you that is not bread making and not how it was intended to be made. Making delicious bread takes time and love. Do you think they’re using bread makers at a bakeshop? I don’t think so. If you don’t have 28 hours to wait for bread, maybe you can wait for 18 with this French boule recipe using a poolish.
What Is a Boule
A French boule is an incredibly old recipe for a large bread recipe that appears as a flattened ball. It can range in sizes but mostly it’s on the bigger side of homemade bread. A boule can be made with all sorts of leavening agents whether that be a levain, a pre-ferment or yeast as well as different flours. The reason a French bakery is called the boulangerie is well, because of the boule.
If you’ve ever seen movies that are based in medieval times or all the way bake to BC days and you see people carrying around big loaves of bread, then you’ve seen a boule before.
Making a Poolish
A poolish, similar to that of the Italian biga, is a preferment. You use 50% of your total flour and 62% to 65% of your total hydration mixed with a small amount of yeast and then let it ferment for 10 to 24 hours.
The difference between a poolish and a big is that a poolish uses higher hydration during the pre-fermentation process which really brings out some strong alcohol odors and really complex flavors. While a poolish isn’t a full fermentation like a levain, the gluten is still broken down and good bacteria is being formed. A poolish can be used in just about any of your bread baking recipes.
Making a Boule With Poolish
1. Mix together 50% of the total flour with 62% of the total water at 80° to 82° and a small amount of yeast in a large container until completely combined. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 10 to 24 hours. The longer sits the more intense the aroma and flavor.
2. In a separate large container mix together the remaining flours, salt, yeast. Pour the water at 105° to 107° into the container with poolish to help loosen it up and then pour all of it into the container with the flour, salt, and yeast and vigorously mix by squeezing and folding until combined, mix for about 3 to 4 minutes. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.
3. Fold the dough by stretching and turning 6 to 8 times every 20 minutes for 60 minutes. Cover and rest for 2 hours.
4. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and form it into a medium-tight ball and then transfer it to a heavily floured bread proofing basket. Dust the top of the dough with flour and cover and proof for 60 to 90 minutes.
5. Preheat a baking stone in the oven to 500° and let sit for 30 minutes to ensure it is hot.
6. Invert the bread right onto the hot stone. Score with a blade if desired, however, it is not necessary. Cover with a large metal bowl. If you do not have a large metal bowl then add 10-15 ice cubes to a casserole pan and put it on the bottom rack of the oven that you are baking in.
7. Bake the bread at 500° for 30 minutes covered and then uncover and cook for a further 20 to 25 minutes
8. Cool the dough on a rack for at least 30 minutes.
How To Store
Storing and Freezing: If this bread isn’t gone the first day, I cut it into fourths and place them in plastic zip bags. In addition, this bread freezes and thaws great so if you can’t eat it then the freezer it is!
chef notes + tips
- This classic French boule bread recipe uses a poolish pre-ferment, the bread contains a higher acidity level allowing it to last for up to 10 days.
More Amazing Bread Recipes
- Homemade Pita Bread Recipe
- Homemade White Bread
- Country Artisan Loaf
- Kamut Flour Bread with Biga
Be sure to follow me on Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, and Pinterest, and if you’ve had a chance to make this then definitely drop me a comment and a rating below!
Classic French Boule Recipe with Poolish
- 650 grams of Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour
- 500 grams of Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Flour
- 858 grams of water
- 24 grams of sea salt
- 4.5 grams of active yeast
- In a large container mix together 550 grams of bread flour with 550 grams of water at 80° to 82° and .5 grams of yeast until combined. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 10 to 24 hours or until tripled in size.
- In a separate large container mix together the remaining 100 grams of bread flour, whole wheat flour, salt, remaining 4 grams of yeast.
- Add the remaining 308 grams of water at 105° to 107° to the container with the poolish to help loosen it up.
- Add the poolish and water mixture to the container with the flour, salt, and yeast and vigorously mix it by squeezing, stretching and folding until completely mixed in, about 3 to 4 minutes. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.
- Fold the dough by stretching and turning it 6 to 8 times every 20 minutes for 60 minutes.
- Cover and let rest for 2 more hours or until it has tripled in size.
- Transfer the dough to a clean floured surface dusted with flour and form it into a medium tight ball. Move the dough to a floured proofing basket, cover with a towel and let proof for 60 to 90 minutes.
- Place a pizza stone into the oven and preheat to 500° and let sit for 30 minutes.
- Invert the dough directly onto the stone, score, cover with a large metal bowl and bake 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes or until the outside of the bread is dark brown.
- 1Set on a cooling rack for 30 minutes.
- 1Slice and serve.
- The longer the poolish sits the more intense the aroma and flavor.
- If you do not have a large metal bowl then add 10-15 ice cubes to a casserole pan and put it on the bottom rack of the oven that you are baking in.
- This classic French boule bread recipe uses a poolish pre-ferment, the bread contains a higher acidity level allowing it to last for up to 10 days.
- In France they let the bread sit for an entire 24 hours before slicing and serving.
- Poolish works great when making baguettes or even pizza dough
Fantastic recipe I made it first time.. Delicius bread i made 3 loaves. Bravo chef. One question may i use flour like faro insted of whole meal flour. Thanks a lot.
Excellent! Yes you can.
I made this boule 9 days ago, and I still have about 2 days worth of bread left. The size of the loaf is kind of ridiculous, I wish I had split it in 2 and frozen one. I will say that it has just barely staled at all keeping it just wrapped in linen in my unused toaster oven, and the flavor has intensified.
I used mature rye starter in my poolish, and split the second portion of flour with white bread flour, dark rye flour, and wheat.
I will make it again, but probably not the full loaf.
Thanks so much for teaching me to be a better cook💕 I love open airy textured bread. Do you think adding vital wheat gluten to this recipe would give me a more airy texture? How much should I add?
I actually do not think that would make it more airy.
I tried this with all bread flour and baked it in a dutch oven (although it barely fit.) The bread is chewy and so flavorful, it’s a different animal than anything in the grocery store and so much better. Thanks for the video and written instructions.
I am obsessed! Tried this recipes (about 20 times) with different quantities of semolina flour. Today’s batch is the best!
Polish is same but after 12 hours added 50 grams too much accidentally .
100 bread flour 550 semolina flour. Oh no! Had to figure out water to maintain 75% hydration. After folding and 2 hour resting, dough was very wet. I didn’t freak out, just kept on going. Separated dough into fourths and made loaves. Very very sticky. BUT the end result was crispy crust and chewy bread. Did not add ice cubes or spray hot oven. I thought that dough was wet enough. So so good! Never thought that I could get to this point that my experience would guide me
Excellent results with this bread. I didn’t let it set for 10 hours as I didn’t have enough time, so after 8 hours I did the second step and followed the recipe correctly the rest of the way. The smell was incredible and it wasn’t finished until 8 PM and I still had to wait 30 minutes before slicing, but oh so worth the whole process. My husband and I ate about 1/4 of the loaf last night. We love poppy, sesame and flax seeds on our baked goods and this boule was covered with it and amazing. I baked it in a cast iron dutch oven and also didn’t have to cook it as long as specified and actually had to lower the temperature to 450 for 30 minutes covered and 10 minutes uncovered. Wish I could have posted the picture I took because it was beautiful. Thanks for sharing!
Novice break maker here. Am I correct in thinking that this dough does not get as much needing as some others? Just 6-8 turns every 20 minutes for an hour does not seem like a lot. I assume the shaping takes a fairly gentle hand. Thanks for great instructions.
Dough needs folding, not kneading so yes you are correct.
I’ve made this several times with all kinds of success. I have a cast iron Dutch oven and a cast iron skillet that fits perfectly on top. For this recipe, I should do two loaves. I used 3/4 of the dough last time and it was a bit crowded in the 10” pans. I do portion off a small piece and use that for a pizza crust. Thanks so much. Video is helpful. Wish I could send a pic of my beautiful bread. Not as pretty as yours, of course!
Chef could I substitute rye instead of whole wheat for this French Boulle Thk you got all ur great recipes
you could. May have to up the hydration bt 1-2%
I did exactly this with wholegrain rye and the results were great.
I made this last week and it was excellent! Could I divide the dough into two pieces shape into batards?
At what point should I divide into two pieces? After the two hour rise?
Amazing bread every time!
Now they want semolina bread! Can I just substitute Whole wheat for semolina?
I think you could.
This is an awesome recipe and always yields awesome bread!
My hubby loves crust so I divided the dough into four long loaves before the final proof. Baked at 425 for 22 minutes until internal temp reached 205 degrees.
However, crust is light in color and not too crisp. Any suggestions would be appreciated! Thank you so much for teaching me to be a better cook and baker! You rock💕
Dear Chef Parisi,
Thank you so much for this recipe! Recently, I have been very into poolish in baking. Something about each recipe I tried made me very frustrated with the finishing results. All of the bread I made became slightly saggy after cool and so hard to slice after freezing for a night, but the loaves of bread I bought from bakeries are not like that? Do bakers actually use some kind of additives in the dough? Can you share the secret with us?
No additives used.
The ferment was terrific with loads of flavor and lift. My only question is that my bread had a dark interior compared to the video. Wondering how almost 40% whole wheat was so light.
Thank you chef
Made it few times – for enjoyment of family and friends !
A tip: I cut the parchment paper that lines the cast iron pot in a shape of clover : this way no dents in the shape of the bread ! Perfect boule
Thank you Chef !
Hi- Can you use a starter in place of the yeast both times it’s called for? (I’m trying not to use commercial yeast)
Yes absolutely but there will be more folds involved. Starter can be 10-15% of the recipe.
Hi Chef Billy.
I’ve had this question in my mind for a while: Can you cold ferment the dough even tough it already has a poolish?
Because I heard that and excellent bread is a bread that has had 3 stages of fermentation, and for that reason it sounds ok to me to cold ferment the dough considering that we are already using a pre-ferment.
Thanks in advance, greetings from México.
Yes after your final fold and shape you could put it in the refrigerator overnight.
Hello! What size of proofing basket do you use for a full recipe?
By the way…love, love, love your kamut bread recipe. I’ve made and given away several boules. Huge hit among my family and friends!
I just took mine out of the oven after 30 minutes at 500 degrees using ice in a pan under the oven stone. No bowl covering or using a dutch oven. The directions do not say that if you do it without a covering it will be done. Mine is quite brown, hopefully not burnt. So I believe if you aren’t using a dutch oven, which I’ve done before with sourdough, or have a giant bowl to cover this giant bread then take that sucker out at 30 or even less minutes. I’m thinking when I do this again I’ll be lowering the oven temp to 475 – 450 as not to get overly dark brown. Can’t WAIT to try a slice!!
Can I bake this in a dutch oven like your other artisan breads, or is it too much dough?
You could, but I would divide it in half or by 1/3’s
I did this with a Creuset Dutch oven and fan oven set at 400F. I preheated the Creuset. After 30 minutes the bread was already at 190F. To what temp would you recommend cooking to?
190° is perfect!
After much research I’ve decided to try my first Poolish bread with your recipe. It looks great!! One question I have is what size proofing basket should I use? Thanks.
After step 6 it had tripled in size but was too soft to be able to form into a tight ball, it was very runny and sticky. What went wrong?
How do you know it was too soft, did you take it out and work with it?
I had the same problem and saw it coming during the first mixing steps. I had to work in about 1C Flour. However, it is baking now and it looks to have a nice height and going in it had a really perfect bounce. I did the rise in my flour towels and this helps the bread as well in some way I think. I also live in Atlanta, GA and this is August so there’s humidity to be factored in.
Dear Chef Parisi,
Thank you so much for this recipe. I baked it today at half the recipe (it turned out quite big and a full recipe won’t go into my oven!). Everything about it was great. Love the crust, the soft inside, the even crumbs and the wonderful aroma and taste. I love it. Am a newbie at baking artisan bread (not very successful with my sourdough starter) so getting this loaf today was great. Thanks for the clear instructions! Stay healthy, Chef.
Getting ready to start this recipe. Looks easy and great. Why didn’t you show the transfer of the bread from the peel and paper to the oven in the video? Hope it will be easy. Always a problem if the bread sticks and it starts to deflate as I work it into the oven.
I am the one that shoots all of my own videos and I messed up the transition and it was way out of focus and I didn’t know it until it was already on the stone so I had to sort of fake it.
Sooo…. I think *might* have added 4g yeast to the poolish, and then another 4g yeast when I mixed the flour and water and salt to make the dough. Am I screwed?
Made a version of this by using a portion of a friend’s poolish as a starter for a new poolish, then followed your recipe. Turned out amazing, so I tried to give it a go from scratch for a second loaf following your recipe start to finish, but I *think* I might have doubled the yeast… I’ll report back.
Well, whether I over-did the yeast or not, it turned out incredible. I’ve since shared this recipe with half a dozen friends. Very simple to make, and if Chef Parisi’s instructions are followed carefully, it comes out looking (and probably tasting) just as amazing as the loaf in the video. I’m starting another poolish tonight. One loaf lasts a week, easy, and is great for sandwiches, french toast, etc. Fresh butter and homemade jam and you’ve got yourself a world-class slice.
Can you explain the differences in types of yeast? Apparently everyone has taken up bread-making so all I could get my hands on was instant yeast. Would that work?
I tried this recipe today and it was the most amazing bread I have made so far. So much flavor and good texture. Plus so easy to make, taking almost no effort. Let the oven and time do their job!! Thank you!!
Can I replace the wheat flour with rye or AP flour? I don’t have any wheat at home now. Thanks!
You could with both. You will need a bit more hydration with rye though.
Thanks, I baked covered @ 25 min. & uncovered 26 min.. The bread was a little burned on the bottom, but not too bad. I might try shortening the uncovered bake time. Other than that small discrepancy the bread was great! The top crust looked awesome!
If you cut the recipe in half what are the cooking times?
Maybe scale it down by 10-15 minutes. Internal temperature should still be the same though.
I think that this is a complex recipe. It is not clear what the measurements are on the poolish or how much poolish goes into the bread. Why not make the recipe into cups and ounces?
The poolish is part of the recipe. Check out the video to see when and how to use it if for some reason the text version is confusing you.
This is good bread, I am making the second loaf now and it looks great. The recipe and instruction totals don’t match though.
you’re right, it was supposed to be 100 grams add in instead of 150. Fixed it!
Sounds amazing! I can’t wait to try this!
My kids really loved it! And I loved that this is so easy to make!
So great to hear!
This bread was absolutely wonderful, not to mention beautiful. This one is a keeper for sure!
This is really gorgeous! Something I’d love to make again and again!
Thank you so much!
Ahh this bread is seriously amazing! And you walk us through it so well that even a total bread novice can make it! Thanks for sharing!
awesome, thank you!
This bread is gorgeous and tastes amazing!